After a hard-fought battle and an impressive comeback against Inter, Milan faced Lazio in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals at San Siro knowing a win would set up a derby rematch in the semis.
Lazio came into the game off the back of a run of four consecutive clean sheets, so by no means was the game meant to be a walk in the park for Milan, but the Rossoneri seemed very determined and converted their chances really well to win 4-0.
Rafael Leao opened up the scoring after a magnificent through ball by Alessio Romagnoli, and Olivier Giroud scored another quick brace after his two goals against Inter at the weekend as he continued to be the man of the moment for Milan.
The second half started at a high pace as Lazio seemingly had no plans to give up, but eventually their tempo dropped and Franck Kessie scored the fourth goal for his side.
It was another big win for Milan, sending a statement to the rest of the league as they mean business and with most players back from injuries, the machine seems to be in motion. Here are five things we learned…
1. Bang bang again
Olivier Giroud managed another two goals as he now has 10 goals in 9 starts for the Rossoneri. His positioning was perfect as he was in the right place at the right time for both of his goals, but on top of that his movement off the ball allowed Brahim Diaz, Messias and Leao to make wonderful runs, resulting in a lot of problems for Lazio.
This is something that hasn’t been happening that much with Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the pitch since he is less mobile nowadays. That being said, it seems that the French striker has no intentions of stopping and will continue his run in the starting line-up, a spot he might keep even when Ibra is back.
2. Electric avenue
Rafael Leao was a bit quiet against Inter, but it wasn’t really his fault since Inter were committed to keeping him subdued by double or sometimes triple teaming him, being aware that the other forwards are not as dangerous in open play.
However, against Lazio Messias and Diaz were also playing very well and Leao had more space to exploit, and he did that well. His run for the first goal was magnificent and the finishing decisive.
The winger went on to destroy Lazio’s defence on the second goal before assisting Giroud. If he can continue this run of form, and he has proven to be consistent this season, Milan can seriously fight for silverware in both the league and the cup.
.@RafaeLeao7 🆚 Lazio
🏄♂️ 1 goal, 1 assist, lots of smiles 😄
— SempreMilan (@SempreMilanCom) February 10, 2022
3. Finally a game-changer
It has been a while since we last saw Brahim Diaz be so efficient. The Spaniard has seemingly clicked with Giroud and Leao and looks more like the player he was at the start of the season. He didn’t pick up a goal or assist directly but was involved in the build-up of both the second and third goals.
His dribbling was on point as well as he received the ball deeper and successfully carried it forward and could only be stopped with a foul. The worrying bit is that Brahim has struggled to play this good with Ibrahimovic on the field as it seems that a player like Rebic or Giroud upfront – players who are more mobile compare to Zlatan – allow him to do more and allow his other team-mates in attack to make runs, opening up space.
Therefore, it’s going to be interesting if he can continue his form even when Zlatan is back, but the display off the bench against Inter and this game against Lazio showed he is and can be a difference-maker.
4. A real headache
The Milan management are still to agree a contract extension with Alessio Romagnoli even though the Italian has reportedly accepted the idea of a pay cut. If the captain was to walk away on a free transfer, Maldini would need to go in the market and find another centre-back in addition to the one already planned in Sven Botman.
The entire situation seems a bit bizarre since Romagnoli has been really good defensively and on the ball. He picked up a lovely assist against Lazio and kept Immobile quiet and was also very good in the previous games, including the derby versus Inter.
The Italian is one who is familiar with the culture at Milan and has expressed a desire to lower his wages in order to stay and fight for a spot. He is also the club captain and it seems obvious that a salary around €3-4m shouldn’t be that hard to reach in order to keep him at the club.
5. Two returnees
While this is not so much something we learned, it was nice to see Tomori and Rebic back on the field with the squad looking almost at full fitness going into the final stages of the season.
We didn’t see Tomori in action for long, but he has plenty of time to get into form since Kalulu and Romagnoli have done a superb job since his injury, and of course it’s good for Pioli to have him on the bench.
We got to see a bit more from Rebic and ‘rusty’ would be the right word to describe him. He had a couple of chances where he should’ve been a bit more decisive, but he failed to take them so it’s clear that even for the ice man will take a couple of games to get him up to speed as well.
Fortunately for Pioli, the schedule is a bit less daunting on paper after the Lazio game and he could give him so more playing time in order to bring the fitness up.